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Music Cape Breton's Diversity in Unity

Mining The Pluck Me Store

The Pluck Me Store describes the company stores where miners purchased food and other necessities for themselves and their families. The song indicates that the company stores also served as a social centre for local coalminers. The miners were obligated to shop at the company store and they were charged high prices for the goods they bought. During the great strike of 1925, a group of miners burned all the stores down.

The Pluck Me Store. The Men of the Deeps. John C. O’Donnell Tape Collection. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

The Men of the Deeps

The Men of the Deeps is a world-renowned male choral ensemble composed of former coalminers from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Inspired by Glace Bay activist, Mrs. Nina Cohen, and famed Nova Scotia folklorist, Dr. Helen Creighton, The Men of the Deeps was organized in 1966 as part of Cape Breton’s contribution to Canada’s Centennial Year (1967) with the specific aim of encouraging the people of Cape Breton to preserve in song some of the rich folklore of the Island’s coal mining communities.

The ensemble first performed to thousands of people in packed theatres in Sydney, New Waterford, and Glace Bay. Those in attendance were highly impressed with the new choral group, including H.P. MacKeen, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, who became the patron of the chorus. Concerts were then held at the Isle Royale Hotel, the opening of the Miners’ Museum, the Queen Mother’s visit (1967), and for Expo 67 in Montreal.

In 1976, the group became the first Canadian musical ensemble to tour the Peoples’ Republic of China, after diplomatic relations between the two nations were restored in 1972. Over twenty years later, they travelled to Kosovo to perform on behalf of the United Nations Children’s Fund. The chorus received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University College of Cape Breton (now Cape Breton University) in 2000. Recent concert tours have brought the choir as far north as the Northwest Territories and as far south as Arizona, Alabama, Florida and the Appalachian coal mining communities of Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Since the group’s inception, the musical director has been John C. (Jack) O’Donnell, now Professor Emeritus of music at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

The Pluck Me Store

Words by Ida MacAulay
Music by Leon Dubinsky
© Shag Rock Sound (music)
© Waterloo Music Company (words)

1. Come dig the coal, ye miner boys,
In summer and in fall;
For winter-time is coming on
When there’d be no work at all.
Then heave the coal, ye miner boys,
The summer quickly passes,
When working days will all be done,
But we must have bread and molasses.

The Pluck Me Store, the Pluck Me Store,
We have to deal at the Pluck Me Store.
And only a little cash is left
When bills are paid at the Pluck Me Store.

2. Then bank the coal, ye miner boys
For winter winds will blow,
As we hurry away to the Pluck Me Store
The only store we know.
It’s the only store on earth, me boys
Where loafing is no sin;
If you shop or not at the Pluck Me Store
You can just drop in.

3. We need no daily paper boys
To start a long debate.
For there’s plenty of news at the Pluck Me Store
And it’s always up to date.
We thought we were poorly treated boys
When no dough for work was found,
But many a briny tear was shed
When the Pluck Me burned to the ground.